Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Infant feeding and components of the metabolic syndrome: findings from the European Youth Heart Study
  1. D A Lawlor1,
  2. C J Riddoch2,
  3. A S Page3,
  4. L B Andersen4,
  5. N Wedderkopp5,
  6. M Harro6,
  7. D Stansbie7,
  8. G Davey Smith1
  1. 1Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, UK
  2. 2London Institute for Sport and Exercise, Middlesex University, UK
  3. 3Department of Exercise and Health Sciences, University of Bristol, UK
  4. 4Department of Sports Medicine, Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education, Oslo, Norway
  5. 5Institute of Sport Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark
  6. 6Department of Public Health, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia
  7. 7Department of Biochemistry, University of Bristol, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr D A Lawlor
    Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Canynge Hall, Whiteladies Rd, Bristol BS8 2PR, UK;


Aims: To assess the associations of type and duration of infant feeding with components of the metabolic syndrome in children aged 9 and 15.

Methods: A total of 2192 randomly selected schoolchildren aged 9 and 15 years from Estonia (n = 1174) and Denmark (n = 1018) were studied. Insulin resistance (homoeostasis model assessment), triglyceride levels, high density lipoprotein cholesterol, and systolic blood pressure were measured.

Results: Children who had ever been exclusively breast fed had lower systolic blood pressures than those who were not. With full adjustment for age, sex, country, birth weight, pubertal stage, body mass index, height, maternal and paternal education, income, smoking, and body mass index the mean systolic blood pressure of children who had ever been breast fed was 1.7 mm Hg (95% CI −3.0 to −0.5) lower than those who had never been exclusively breast fed. There was a dose-response in this association with decreasing mean systolic blood pressure across categories from never exclusively breast fed to breast fed for more than six months. Exclusive breast feeding was not associated with other components of the metabolic syndrome. Results were similar when examined separately in each country.

Conclusions: The magnitude of the association, its independence of important confounding factors, and the dose-response suggest that exclusive breast feeding is causally associated with reduced systolic blood pressure. The magnitude of the effect we found with blood pressure is comparable to the published effects of salt restriction and physical activity on blood pressure in adult populations, suggesting that it is of public health importance.

  • blood pressure
  • breast feeding
  • infant feeding
  • insulin resistance

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding: This study was supported by the following grants: Denmark: Danish Heart Foundation, Danish Medical Research Council, Health Foundation, Danish Council for Sports Research, Foundation of 17-12-1981, Foundation in Memory of Asta Florida Bolding nee Andersen, and Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southern Denmark; Estonia: Estonian Science Foundation grant nos. 3277 and 5209. DAL is funded by a UK Department of Health Career Scientist Award. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily any funding body.

  • Competing interests: none declared